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Interview Skills Consulting

Interview Skills COnsUhlllg

Techniques & Frameworks
Formulating your answers

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How would you dissuade someone from going into Medicine? What are you looking forward to the most and the least about
becoming a doctor?

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"I don't like selling myself. It makes me feel arrogant" Selling yourself. The "TAGS" framework Questions asking for examples The "STAR" technique Dealing with ... , coping with ... The four 'R's Expressing an opinion Analysis of interview questions 1 Tell me about yourself. 2 Take us through your application form/personal statement. 3 Why do you want to do Medicine? 4 Why not nursing? Why not any other healthcare profession? 5 What would you do if you did not get into Medicine this year? 6 What steps have you taken to find out whether Medicine is the right career for you? 7 Tell me about your work experience. 8 Tell me about your gap year. g What have you read or experienced to prepare you for Medicine? 10 What does a doctor do apart from treating patients? 11 Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years' time? 12 If you had the choice between being a GP, a surgeon or a physician, which would you choose? 13 What do you want to achieve during your career in Medicine? 14 What impact do you hope to make in the field of Medicine? 15 Why have you chosen this medical school? 16 There are other universities with the same teaching methods. Why this one in particular? 17 What attracts you the most and the least about our medical school? 18 What challenges do you think that a career in Medicine will bring you? 1g What are the pros and cons of being a doctor?

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What are the different aspects of communication? How would you rate your communication skills? How have you developed your communication skills?
Can you learn communication skills?

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Are you an empathic person? Can you think of a situation where your communication skills made a difference to the outcome of a situation? What makes a good team player? Give an example where you played an effective role as a team




What are the attributes of a good team leader? Tell me about your leadership skills. Are you a leader or a follower? What makes a good team? What are the advantages and disadvantages of working in a


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How do you manage your time? How good are your organisational skills? Tell me about your IT skills. How important is IT in Medicine? What are your hobbies? rell me about a non-academic project in which you were i"volved. Ilow do you cope with stress? Ilow do you feel that your hobbies have contributed to your


Wllilt makes a good doctor? WII,,! are your main strengths? Wily me you the best candidate today? Why should we take you

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, 11v.tllree adjectives that suit you best. II, oW would your friends describe you? WI,,,! would you like written in your obituary? I'" V'H' IIl1vethe personality that it lakes to do Medicine? WI,,,, .kills have you gained in your current work that are I,"".r","hle to Medicine? (Question for graduates)

Interview Skills Consulting

Interview Skills Consulting

51 52 53 54 55

Do you work better by yourself or as part of a team?

What is your main weakness?



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If you could change two things about yourself, what would they be? Who has had a major influence on you as a person? Tell us about your best I worst teacher. Describe an instance where you made a life-changing decision. What is your greatest achievement? What are you most proud of? How do you cope with criticism? How do you cope with conflict? As a doctor, who would you regard as part of the team? Why is research important? What research have you done? What type of research would you be interested in doing? If you were to set up a new medical research project, what would it be? How do you go about researching something you know nothing about? What makes a good teacher? How important is teaching in the medical profession? Who should a doctor teach? When you are a doctor, would you like to get involved in teaching? Give an example of a situation where you held an opinion but had to change your view. What is the worst mistake that you have made? How do you know what you don't know? Which question would you most want to ask if you were interviewing others to enter medical school? Tell us about an interesting book that you have read or film that
you have seen.

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What are the advantages and disadvantages of PBl? What are the advantages and disadvantages of traditional teaching? What do you know about our course, why does it suit you and why does it interest you? This course requires a great deal of independent study. Will you

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60% of medical school applicants are female. Why do you think that is? What are the extended roles of nurses in healthcare? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the increasing role of nurses? Does the bulk of medical treatment occur in the community or in hospitai? How do politics influence healthcare decisions? Do you think it is right to allow private healthcare to run alongside the NHS? How should healthcare be funded? What do you think about the way doctors are perceived in the media? What does the phrase "inequalities in healthcare" mean to you? What are the arguments for and against people paying for their own healthcare? How does Medicine now compare with 100 years ago? What are alternative medicines I complementary therapies? What is your opinion on them? Do you think the NHS should provide alternative therapies? Sliouid the NHS deal with patients who have self-inflicted


Do you know what it is like to be a medical student? Why do some students who qualify as doctors give up Medicine
and never practice?

'illould the NHS fund non-essential surgery? III what ways can doctors promote good health? IlII""ld doctors show a good example to patients? WIIlIlls holistic Medicine?
WIIIII{1 you say that Medicine is an art or a science?

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Studying for Medicine is a long and stressful process. What makes you think that you can cope with it? What do you know about problem-based learning (PBl)? How does it compare with traditional teaching methods?

WIIIII do you know about clinical governance? WII"I do you know about the audit process? WIIIII do you know about the European Working Time Directive? WIIIIII. "Hospital at Night"? WIIIII I. "Modernising Medical Careers" or "MMC"?

Interview Skills Consulting

Interview Skills Consulting

What do you know about "Evidence-Based Practice" or "Evidence-Based Medicine"? 108 What do you know about Practice-Based Commissioning (PBC)? 109 What do you know about "Payment By Results" (PBR)? 110 What are the issues affecting the NHS currently? 111 What do you know about Shipman? 112 How long does it take to become a consultant? 113 How long does it take to train as a GP? 114 Tell us about the four ethical principles of Medicine? 115 What does the term "informed consent" mean to you? 116 Only competent patients can give consent. What is meant by "competent"? 117 What do you understand by the expression "patient confidentiality" and when can it be breached? 118 Would you be happy to let a Jehovah's Witness die because he refused a blood transfusion? 119 What would you do if a known Jehovah's Witness arrived in A&E unconscious, bleeding profusely and needing an urgent blood transfusion? 120 A mother comes to A&E with a child who is bleeding profusely and refuses to allow you to administer a blood transfusion to the child. Why do you think this may be and what would you do? 121 Do you think it is right for patients to make the choice as to what is in their own best interest? 122 You have one liver available for transplant and must choose one of two possible patients on the transplant list. One is an exalcoholic mother with two young children and the other one is a 13-year-old child with a congenital (from birth) liver defect. They both have equal clinical needs. How would you go about choosing who gets the liver? 123 Should alcoholics and smokers receive equal treatment to those who don't drink and don't smoke? 124 What would you do if an obese patient demanded an immediate total hip replacement which will fail in 6 months?



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A young woman presents with rheumatoid arthritis. She has tried all the conventional treatments but is still having problems. Unless her symptoms improve, she will have to give up work in the near future. There is a new but very expensive treatment available. Treatment for a single patient costs as much as conventional treatment for 10 patients. The drug is not effective in all patients and in some cases gives rise to a worsening of the symptoms. What do you do? 126 You are the Health Secretary and you have a budget of 10m available to you every year. With that budget, you will be able to make a treatment or procedure available on the NHS. You have been given the choice between only two options: a treatment that will considerably alleviate the pain of arthritis sufferers and a surgical procedure designed to repair a hole in the heart of neonates. Both treatments/procedures have exactly the same overall annual cost. What would you do? 117 A 14-year-old girl presents to you asking for a termination of pregnancy. What are the issues? I 'II An elderly lady refuses to take her medication for heart failure following a recent heart attack. Not taking the medication .poses her to serious risks, including possible death. She presents to your surgery with her husband who wants you to talk orne sense into her. What are the issues? I "" What would you do if a patient came to you asking for advice ',!>outa non-conventional treatment that they had found on the llllornet? I III What would you do if a patient offered you a 50 voucher as a 1111101 Christmas? I II 1'0 you think it is right for doctors to have conferences, training 1,81lons and study material sponsored by pharmaceutical I I Illlpnnies or other corporate sponsors? I I.' WIIIII is your opinion about euthanasia and assisted suicide? I \ I 1\ pnlient comes to see you and requests an HIV test. What do




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'"'' 1110 B physician looking after a patient who was diagnosed willi IIiV B few months ago. You have encouraged him to
,H'1l 11I:1~ his diagnosis to his wife, which he has refused to do.

Wlllll iln you do?


Interview SkIlls Consulting

Interview Skills Consulting

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What is your opinion on vivisection? What are the arguments for and against the sale of tobacco? Do you think it is right for parents to conceive a second child to cure a disease in their first child? How do you solve the problem of transplant organ shortage? Do you think that the government is right to impose that the NHS should only allow the MMR vaccine rather than three individual

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140 You are a junior doctor and, just before the morning ward round, you notice that your consultant smells of alcohol. What do you do? What would you do if you caught a colleague looking at child pornography on a computer at work? What would you do if a colleague asked you to prescribe them some antidepressants? What would you do if one of your fellow junior doctors was not pulling his weight in the team? Do you think that sending a man to the moon was money well spent? Ten years ago, most doctors wore white coats. Now, few of them do. Why is that? Why do you think that life expectancy in the north of England is 5 years less than in the south according to statistics? Why do you think it is that we cannot give a guarantee that a medical treatment or surgical procedure will be successful? What do you think would be the advantages, and difficulties, for a person with a major physical disability (e.g. blindness) wishing to become a doctor? Do you think that the Hippocratic Oath is still relevant to modern day Medicine? Do charities have a role in society or do you think that the government should decide where all the money should go? What has been the most important discovery in the last 100 years? 292

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Preparation, Tips & Body language Preparing for your interview Tips & Body language Asking questions at the end
10 11

Interview Skills Consulting

InterView Skills Consulting


Throughout this book, we will demonstrate how individual questions may be approached in order to deliver a strong answer. There are a number of factors that you should bear in mind and that should underline every answer that you give: Keep track of time: no longer than 2 minutes for most questions, 3 minutes if the subject is broad (any longer and you will put the interviewer to sleep). No one.liners: you need to explain what you say, back up all your statements appropriately and generally provide a well.developed answer. This is what this book will teach you to do. Your answers should be sufficiently long to be interesting. A minimum length of 1.5 minutes would be appropriate. Keep to the point and use a sound structure/framework: always directly answer the question at the start of your answer. Do not waffle or have a lengthy introduction. You can diverge slightly afterwards if you want (providing it is relevant). Make sure that your answer follows a well.defined structure or framework. Most structures/frameworks will consist of 3.5 main points (this is as much as anyone will be prepared to listen to). Raising too many points will simply make you lose your audience. If you have more than a handful of points to make, try to see if you can reorganise the information into bigger headings. Substantiate and personalise: use facts to substantiate your answer. Facts bring credibility to your answer. You can draw from your work or academic experience to discuss who, what, when, why and how, and to personalise your answers. Using 'I' rather than 'we' gives more credit to your actions. Be positive: keep the answers positive. Sell yourself. There is no need to volunteer the negative facts. When discussing negative situations, use your answer to explain how much you have learnt from your experience. Conclude: always conclude your answer. Keep it brief. Whenever possiblo, make sure that the conclusion relates back to you and your future role as II doctor.


Feeling arrogant when attempting to sell oneself is a common and natural feeling, which even the shyest candidates have. If you feel arrogant, it is often because you are trying to sell yourself by making bold statements along the lines of "I am a good communicator", "I am a good team player", "I am very organised", etc. I'lsentially, all you are doing is giving the interviewers your own opinion of yourself without explaining what you mean. There are three main ways in Which you can get around that problem and, with a bit of practice, you will be ,~I. to build complete answers that present you as a balanced individual: =xpress your strengths in an objective manner by mentioning the fact that other people think that you are good (e.g. "I have often been complimented by my teachers for being a good team player"). JUltify your skills by talking about the impact they have or had, and by ~Ivlng representative examples (e.g. "I have good organisational skills WI,lch really helped me in making the College's summer ball a success at II "I end of last year": you can then go into more details about what the "V'lnt involved). This helps dilute the bold statement. practical and talk about your experience rather than what you think '" .,r. good at. For example, "I have a lot of experience of working with 1"'"111 both as a leader and a simple team member" is a lot more effective ,,,., ,Iown to earth than "I am a really good team player and team leader". r'l "HJrle, once you have made a statement about your level of I'''' Io)[1CO, you will need to go on describing that experience and your "I" wllhln it.
ItlV lUll' '111 11)11 book,

we will show you how this can be achieved in individual



Interview Skills Consulting

Interview Skills Consulting


A number of questions are designed to make you talk about yourself, to describe why you feel that you are a suitable candidate for Medicine and what your aspirations are. To answer such questions successfully, you will need to address a wide range of issues, thereby demonstrating a broad knowledge of the medical environment and what being a doctor entails. You will also need to deliver your answer in a clear and structured manner, for which the following framework should assist you. Where necessary, we will refer to this framework throughout our explanations.


Questions asking for examples are popular at interviews. This form of questioning, called "behavioural", stems from the fact that your recruiters are likely to learn a lot more about you by getting you to talk about your past experiences than by asking you how you might behave in hypothetical situations. Typical questions are likely to be of the form: Describe a situation

where you played an important role in a team, where you used your communication skills effectively, where you made a mistake, where you leiled to communicateeffectively, where you had to deal with conflict, etc.


& ExperiencelClinical The The The The exams that you have passed extent of your technical knowledge and of your training extent of your experience courses and seminars that you have attended

fh. Rules AllI,ough most candidates find such questions difficult, they are in fact ",I.lively easy once you have identified a good example to discuss, providing " 'u tallow a number of important rules. 1: Make sure that you choose a specific example


Teaching others Carrying out research activities Ensuring that your practice is up to standard by doing regular audits

candidates prefer to address vague situations or to speak about their "MI"J,ilnce in general. For example, "Describe a situation where you played I" It flportant role in a team" often leads to answers of the type '" work in ''''''''1 nil the time, at school, in my summer job or at the local youth club". '" I 1uch an answer would be missing the point of the question. If you read 11110 'plltltlon correctly, it is asking about a situation, i.e. a specific case or I'" '1101 you handled. You would therefore need to be very specific.


Generic skills
Communication skills (listening skills, caring approach, empathy, etc.) Team playing Leadership Management and organisational skills

If,,'. ." r.k.

some time to identify all the skills that you need to

Social life, hobbies, volunteer work, etc.

IIII''''';{,,' flU' lion such as "Describe a situation where your communication skills , " "",live effect on a situation", it is obvious that the question is testing tltllil v to communicate. In other less obvious questions, such as "Give an I,h. "t IJ IUuBtion where you had to deal with a complex situation", there ',lIlllhol you can demonstrate such as:
" .,1
II '11


""ly 10 loke Ihe initiative and to work within your own limits. to Identify the resources you need to resolve this problem. 15


Interview Skills Consulting

Interview Skills Consulting

Your ability to seek help from others whenever required. Your ability to work with your team to achieve the best possible result. Your ability to communicate with all parties involved.

Rule 3: Ensure that your example is relevant and addresses as many of the required skills identified as possible Many candidates are so happy to have found one example that they rush into their explanation without thinking whether they are maximising their chances by using it. A bad example will be difficult to explain in detail and will leave a bad impression on the interviewers.

The range of questions relating to examples is limited and you should therefore be able to prepare adequately without wasting too much time. By preparing examples of good communication. good teamwork, leadership, initiative and creativity, a mistake that you have made, dealing with a complex situation and with a conflict situation, you will have covered 99% of the example questions normally asked. If they are suitably complex, some examples can be used to illustrate different ,kills. For example, dealing with a difficult customer in your summer job may '",nble you to show good communication, good leadership and good conflict ,,,,,'dling skills. Preparing complex examples will therefore enable you to kill ',v"ral birds with one stone and will help you minimise the number 01 n)ulInples that you need to remember.

Rule 4: Do not be tempted to make things up It does not require much training to recognise a liar. Interviewers will be able to spot fairly easily whether you are making things up simply by the lack of detail that you are providing and the vagueness of your answers.

Rule 5: Be personal Describe what ~ did, not what everyone else did (unless it is absolutely
relevant to the situation). Too many candidates waste their time discussing

what the team did and how the team worked, giving little information about what they, themselves, did. You must always remember that the point of the recruitment process is to find out about ~, not about anyone else. Concentrate on the "I" rather than the "We" and don't be afraid of going into detail, providing it is relevant.

Rule 6: Follow the "STAR" technique The STAR technique, described in the following chapter, provides an easy way to give a focused and organised answer. Take some time to apply it to as many examples as you can so that it becomes second nature. See p.18.

Rule 7: Prepare suitable examples before you go to the interview It is notoriously difficult to come up with good examples at an interview if YOII have not done any preparation. Without that preparation, you will come "I with examples that are lame and do not allow you to show your full potentll,l
17 16

Interview Skills Consulting

IntervIew Skills Consulting


The acronym "STAR" stands for Situation Task Action Result. It is a universally recognised communication technique designed to enable you to provide a meaningful and cqmplete answer to questions asking for examples. At the same time, it has the advantage of being simple enough to be applied easily. Many interviewers will have been trained in using this structure. Even if they have not, they will recognise its value when they see it. The information will be given to them in a structured manner and, as a result, they will become more receptive to the messages you are trying to communicate. Step 1 - Situation or Task Describe the situation that you were confronted with or the task that needed to be accomplished. Set the context. Make it concise and informative, concentrating solely on what is useful to the story. For example, if the question is asking you to describe a situation where you had to deal with a difficult person, explain how you came to meet that person and why they were being difficult. If the question is asking for an example of teamwork, explain the task that you had to undertake as a team. Step 2 - Action This is the most important section as it is where you will need to demonstrate and highlight the skills and personal attributes that the question is testing. Now that you have set the context of your story, you need to explain what YOIl did. In doing so, you will need to remember the following:

What you did and how you did it

The interviewers will want to know how you reacted to the situation. This is where you can start selling some important skills. For example, you may want to describe how you used the team to achieve a particular objective and how you used your communication skills to keep everyone updated on progress etc.

Why you did it

lhis is probably the most crucial part of your answer. Interviewers want to know that you are using a variety of generic skills in order to achieve your llhJoctives. Therefore you must be able to demonstrate in your answer that vnll are taking specific actions because you are trying to achieve a specific "I'inclive and not simply by chance. I ltxnmple, when discussing a situation where you had to deal with conflict, candidates would simply say: "I told my colleague to calm down and "I,,'ned to him what the problem was". However, it would not provide a ," "I Idea of what drove you to act in this manner. How did you ask him to 10" c1l1wn?How did you explain the nature of the problem? By highlighting ,an'Ons behind your action, you would make a greater impact. For



.,1 ",I

,,,Id '"nse that my colleague was irritated and 1 asked him genliy to II" felt the problem was. By allowing him to vent his feelings and , I II',ve him the opportunity to calm down. I then explained to him II! lin I of view on the matter, emphasising how important it was that I "olHlIon that suited us both."

tell his my we

Be personal, i.e. talk about you, not the rest of the team. Go into some detail. Do not assume that they will guess what you mean. Steer clear of technical information, unless it is crucial to your story. Explain what you did, how you did it, and why you did it.

' .if"nll nnswer helps the interviewers understand what drove your ,. ",,,I ,,,I,,[orces the feeling that you are calculating the consequences Ihus retaining full control of the situation. It provides much fHIIllullon nbout you as an individual.

, ", II"".,



Interview Skills Consulting Step 3 - Result

Interview Skills Consulting

Explain what happened eventually - how it all ended. Also, use the opportunity to describe what you accomplished and what you leamt in that situation. This helps you make the answer personal and enables you to highlight further skills.



Interviewers sometimes ask how you would deal or cope with a particular situation (e.g. stress, a difficult person). They are not asking for a specific xample (in which case the STAR framework would apply), but the approach Illot you would take generally. 'Illch questions are very hypothetical because, in practice, your reaction wlIlIld very much depend on the intensity of the problem, the personality of "IIIor people involved and the context. Nevertheless, you need to address II questions fully and the four 'R's framework should help you do this.


lIu.1 YIlIl

wgnlse the situation: You must recognise that there is a problem and understand its nature. , .ult Information about the situation: Gather facts, identify the cause of

1I'l1l1lorn and the issues involved.

Ille situation: Take the appropriate steps to resolve the issues



'till ~l'n lllat

tho situation: a good answer is always personal. You should you can learn from situations.



IntervIew Skills Consulting

Interview Skills Consulting

There will be many questions where you will be asked what you think of suchand-such concept or situation. These questions are not designed to test whether your ideas match those of the panel. Indeed. you are allowed to think what you want. providing it'does not make you an unsafe or bigoted doctor, and provided that you can justify your opinions with sensible arguments. What the panel will require from you is an ability to think about the topic from different perspectives, to present balanced arguments in a clear, concise and structured manner and to be in a position to discuss the topic in an adult fashion with them. In most cases, this will mean reserving your own opinion on the topic until the end and presenting the various sides of the argument first. Giving your opinion first would not only stop you from addressing the multiple facets of the issue in question, but would also often make you run the risk of appearing one-dimensional. In most cases, the opinions that you will be required to give will be related to something which is either in the news at the time of the interview (current trial, court case), an ongoing political issue (role of nurses, NHS reforms) or an ethical issue or scenario (abortion, euthanasia, vivisection, liver transplants for alcoholics, etc.). In order to deal with current issues or political issues, you will need to be familiar with the details and this book will help you a lot in understanding some of the intricacies. However, you would be well advised to spend some time reading relevant news websites and newspapers as they are often a rich source of arguments that you can use in your own answers. In order to deal with ethical issues, you will also need to have done u substantial amount of thinking and reading in your own time so that you COil acquire a good ability to debate. This book will give you many arguments th"l
you can use. However, to complement it, you will need to spend some tim



discussing them informally with friends and family. You will be all the mar equipped for having listened to and argued with your closest friends Ilr relatives. The interviewers will expect you to engage in a similar debate Willi them.


Interview Skills Consulting

Interview Skills Consulting

Training & Experience

Tell me about yourself.

Provide the highlighls of your educalion so far, your 'A' Levels and career 10 dale. Explain how you developed your inleresl in Medicine and, as part of this, whal you gained from your work experience. Academic Develop your experience

and interesl in teaching, lab work, research, elc.

Introduction This question, when asked, will be Ihe first one in the interview and you must use it to your advantage to make the best possible impression. Most people find Ihal it is a difficull queslion to approach and struggle to find an interesling angle. Consequenlly, they end up making one of two serious mistakes: They want to teli their life slory and end up speaking for over 5 minutes, giving a year-by-year account of Iheir studies and interests; or They menlion two skills superficialiy and do not personalise their answer. This results in a 10-second answer of Ihe Iype 'My name is John, I like science, I am a good team player and I want to be a doclor". Many candidates' first reaclion is "What do you wanl me to talk about: my studies, my hobbies or my work experience?" In reality, you should exploillhe vagueness of the question to discuss what you want to discuss (and nol what you think they might want to hear), using the opportunily 10 sell your experience and skills. How to approach the question Essentially, this queslion is asking you to verbalise informalion that should already be included in your personal slatement. It Iherefore gives you an opportunily to shine using infonmation Ihal you have already gathered. If thero are some omissions in your personal statements, here is a chance to mak up for Ihe deficiencies. In order 10 provide a complete picture, use the TAGS framework highlightull on page 14 and take the interviewers through each section in lurn.

Generic Skills
llighlight your interpersonal skills and other personal attribules. This would

Include communication skills, team playing abilities, organisational and

h",dership skills. You should relate each skill mentioned to your life nll:pnrlences and work experience, giving examples of situations where you dl1lllonstrated such skills. Ild,,1 1.11. "lIout yourself as a person. What social life do you have? How do you ,.10 1 What are your hobbies? This aspect is importanl as il presenls you as w,,11 hnlnnced individual. This will be crucial throughout medical school and '" lih, ns a doclor 10 enable you to cope with Ihe pressure of exams and " Ill! work experiences, and to relieve your stress.
1\ J I lIlinutes

to answer the question, and four sections to address, you II."IV hllve 30-40 seconds per section. You Iherefore need to be succinct II nllMwor, while providing enough information to sound interesting. This 1" "pnrotion and practice.
I. "' nn Ineffective


'''''''" /s John. I am currently taking my 'A' Levels and am really ,., 01" M"d/cine. I think Medicine will be a great way to have an 11'0 w,d to make a real difference to people. I am a good "''', II good team player and I am very dedicated and focused. I 'llIJ loot/mil and going out with my friends. I, ,,"I "lIad". The general slruclure and approach are fine bul lUll \lllllUric to have a strong impact. Its main weakness is that IItflllV Illtements that are not fully explained and whose , 10 1 11I., llio judgement of Ihe interviewer.